Local judge says boost ‘a long time coming’
Wayne County jurors who spend eight hours listening to testimony and weighing evidence receive pay equivalent to $5 per hour.
It’s the same all across Indiana, but it could soon change.
House Bill 1466 would double compensation for those called among a jury pool and for those selected to serve. Currently, citizens called are paid $15 per day until the jury is impaneled, while selected jurors receive $40 each day they serve plus mileage reimbursement. And that money is taxable.
The Indiana bill, which unanimously passed the Indiana House of Representatives, would increase daily compensation to $30 for jury pool members and to $80 for the first five days a juror serves. That would increase to $90 per day from the sixth day of service until a judge discharges the jury.
“Any increase is definitely warranted and justified, and in my opinion, a long time coming,” said Judge Gregory Horn, who presides in Wayne County Superior Court 2. “These are people who are giving up their time; they are away from their families and away from their jobs to do their civic duty. I firmly believe we should pay them accordingly.”
According to the Indiana Capital Chronicle, juror compensation hasn’t changed since at least 2004, but Indiana still ranks middle of the pack among states. At the low end, five pay jurors between $5 and $7.50 per day, according to Jury Duty 101, and at the high end, six pay $50 per day.
Finding a jury summons in the mail often elicits a disappointed groan rather than excitement about providing a defendant the guaranteed jury of peers. For some, there’s inconvenience; maybe apprehension about making a serious decision that impacts lives. Then, there are financial reasons.
Horn noted that jurors still must provide for their families, and in his experience, few employers pay employees during their jury service. One school of thought would mandate employers pay the difference between a worker’s usual pay and their jury compensation.
Then, there are the self-employed. There’s no income if a business must close; there’s no farm work accomplished if the farmer is in court.
“It detracts from people’s willingness to serve on a jury,” Horn said about the low compensation.
Except for cases of extreme hardship, Wayne County residents must show up when called for a jury pool. If they don’t, they are in contempt of court, and the county’s courts do issue community-service penalties.
Despite initial hesitancy, jurors often end their service glad they participated, Horn said. They find the trial experience interesting.
But that doesn’t pay their bills.
And those who can’t afford to lose a day’s or week’s income are important when forming a jury, Judge Sam Cappas of Lake County told Indiana Capital Chronicle. They provide defendants a fair cross-section of the community.
To pay for the proposed increase, the legislation raises a jury fee collected from defendants convicted of crimes or certain infractions or municipal ordinances to $6 from $2. It also will assess a new $75 jury fee to parties who file a civil tort or civil plenary action that would be in addition to the existing $100 civil filing fee.
After the 94-0 House vote, the legislation has reached the Senate and been sent to the Judiciary committee. It is among eight House bills and resolutions the committee considered on March 8, according to an online agenda.
If the Senate passes the legislation and Gov. Eric Holcomb signs it, the law would take effect July 1.
A version of this article appeared in the March 15 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.